“May the Force be with you” vs. “Live long and prosper,” lightsabers vs. phasers, warp drive vs. hyperdrive? The fan debate over which story, technology, spaceships and characters are superior started a long time ago.
To casual moviegoers, there is not much difference between “Star Trek,” the sci-fi franchise that launched on television in 1966, and “Star Wars,” which debuted on movie screens in 1977. Yet to hard-core fans, the differences are as significant as those between tribbles and droids.
“Star Trek” fans think “Trek” is better because it portrays a complex, science-based technological future where diverse species unite for the betterment of all. “Star Wars,” many believe, is a simple adventure with ray guns and walking carpets, where the good guy wears white and the bad guy wears black, and there’s a magic Force.
“Star Wars” fans think “Star Wars” and “The Empire Strikes Back” are “The Godfather” and “The Godfather: Part II” of science fiction films: a perfect original followed by an equally great sequel. They can tell you exactly where they were when they first heard “No, I am your father.” “Trek,” for many, is boring techno-babble; everything gets talked to death over tea, Earl Grey, hot, whereas a Jedi with a lightsaber and a rascal with a ship that can make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs will always save the day.
YouTube videos debating and lampooning the rivalry abound. Fan polls from the past few years indicate a fairly even split, and for many Hollywood stars the choice is far from unanimous. Josh Hutcherson of “The Hunger Games” picks “Star Wars,” as does “Captain America” star Chris Evans. Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Reynolds pick “Star Trek,” according to a 2012 IGN Entertainment video.
Is there anyone who can settle this debate? Someone who has attained kolinahr, someone with the wisdom of a Jedi master, who can unemotionally yet boldly make this decision?
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is perhaps the closest geeks have to a rock-star-type hero. Here’s his verdict from an October Rolling Stone interview: “I’m ‘Star Wars’ fluent, but I’m a bigger ‘Trek’ fan. There’s a promise of actual science going on in ‘Star Trek,’ but not so much in ‘Star Wars.’ ”
When all the fizbin cards are down, for most fans resistance is futile. There’s usually something about the other franchise they actually like.
And just like the Force, it appears this debate will be with us, always.